The One Thing Continuing to Rob My Focus

The One Thing Continuing to Rob My Focus

(Justin DiRose) #1

The One Thing Continuing to Rob My Focus

Earlier this month, David Sparks, of MacSparky fame, wrote an article outlining a number of ways to help retain or regain focus. Focus has been such a strong buzzword in the productivity space the last few years, and rightfully so. In a world full of distraction, infinite inputs, and instantaneous information divulgence, there’s a ton that can draw your focus.

There’s one item I saw missing from David’s list, and, frankly, from every other “do these things to focus” list out there I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because it’s relevant only to me, or maybe we haven’t gone deep enough into the roots of what truly distracts us.

If you follow my productivity journal, or read my recent post about the Apple Watch, you may catch that distractions cause me anxiety. Actually, it’s not even the distraction itself, its the possibility of the distraction.

Someone might say the solution is to remove the possibility to remove the anxiety. This is the approach I’ve taken, and it’s been mostly effective. Yet I’ve noticed this does not keep me from getting in cycles of distractibility where I will find myself seeking out distraction. Those days, I mindlessly check Twitter, my favorite news sites, and fiddle with my productivity tools until the cows come home. I’m procrastinating (obviously). While I can usually catch myself and get back on task, it does not solve the problem, as I keep wanting to distract myself throughout the day.

Emotional health is something very important to me. In fact, I believe if we all learned to manage our emotions and take care of ourselves better, the world would be a significantly better place. We’d have less jockeying for position, fewer people abusing or lording over others, and healthier families, friendships, workplaces, and communities.

On to my deeper focus issue. I found on these days where my focus was near impossible to keep, I was emotionally overwhelmed. I either experienced something negative in the last 24-48 hours, felt stressed or worried about a particular situation, or, frankly, just didn’t get enough sleep and my emotional self-control capacity was at an all time low.

How do you know if you’re emotionally overwhelmed? I think there are different signs for each person. For me, I tend to get a slight feeling of discomfort in the middle of my abdomen, a buzzing sensation in my head, and a sensitivity to any personal feedback.

In reality, the problem is I’m trying to avoid the negative emotions and “self-medicate” by trying to find something pleasurable. When I recognize I’m emotionally overwhelmed, there are a few strategies I’ve started to use effectively to break through the fog and distraction to actually discover and deal with the problem.

  1. Journal - Journaling can take as long as you want. I usually sit down with a pen and paper and start writing in a stream-of-consciousness mode until I feel I’m getting to the cause of my emotions.
  2. Talk it out - Talking uses the same strategy as journaling, but when I’m in need of my spouse or a friend to help gain clarity.
  3. Find the feeling words - The more descriptive I can get of my feelings, the easier it is to process them.
  4. Sleep - If you’re tired, sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is take a nap. Then try again after you rest a bit.
  5. Go for a walk - Sometimes getting out in nature helps me emotionally/mentally reset.

Once I feel like I have a handle on what the issue is, there are two very important things I need to do.

  1. Feel the pain - The best thing I can do when I’m feeling pain is… feel it. Don’t hide, try to cover it up, or ignore it. Embrace it.
  2. Let myself cry if I need it - Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with crying. In fact, it’s one of the fastest, most effective ways to deal with negative emotions. If I let myself feel the pain, crying helps me move through it.
  3. Forgive - If someone hurt me, saying, “I forgive them,” out loud literally lifts weight off my shoulders emotionally. It’s powerful.
  4. Move on - The worst thing to do is get stuck in a negative emotional loop. Let it go when you’re done and move on, but don’t be afraid to repeat the process if the feeling comes up again.

Emotions are not always easy to process, but, in my experience, unprocessed emotions have been one of the largest roadblocks to my ability to keep focus on what matters to me. Taking the extra time to dig into what I’m feeling allows me to be more agile, focused, and effective in my everyday life. Maybe it’s a little too mushy for the productivity space, but I know doing these things has helped me focus better in general.

Coming back to OmniFocus
(Wilson Ng) #2

I use my personal iPad a lot at the office. I’ve been thinking about keeping my personal iPad stuck in a drawer because it has my newsfeeds, twitter, movies, tv shows, and social media apps. Then I would buy one of the new low end iPads with just the basic office apps installed. That would prevent me from reaching for those distraction apps. I’ve been happy to not use my Mac for social media but that is always tempting. Maybe I need one of those software filter apps to block them on the Mac? But I don’t spend a lot of time at my desk so I’m not tempted as much.

I get this sometimes. It’s usually a hiccup where a customer becomes troublesome and I have to put out fires or one of the vendors screws up or I might have forgotten to do something and things don’t work smoothly. After resolution, I feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders. I try to think of these times as learning experiences and document what I need to do to avoid them next time. It also helps to start up a project in my task manager to actively deal with ways to overcome future obstacles if it occurs once again.


(Joe Buhlig) #3

It’s interesting that you bring this up as I’m coming to grips with this realization only within the last couple weeks. I’ve had to initiate and oversee a number of difficult conversations and manage some tense relational issues lately. Those almost always have an ongoing effect in the next few days.

Quite often I just want to take a nap… for three days. :laughing:

But it’s awesome that you’ve managed to clarify what it is that will help you genuinely deal with the emotions as opposed to putting them off for later or never. I could take a lesson from that.

(Justin DiRose) #4

This was my week two weeks ago. Lots of strife going on. And it tanked my ability to work.

My favorite book on the topic is:

Yup! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

It’s a continuous lesson I started learning a decade ago. It’s amazing how processing (or not processing) emotions healthily affects everything we do.

(Mike N) #5

I would suggest “Constructive Living” by David Reynolds. Incredibly practical framework on dealing with life.

There is a 4 hour recording on Audible, which is a lecture / presentation on the methodology vs. the whole book. That would be enough for most folks to improve their mental quality of life.

(Joe Buhlig) #6

Looking into this one now. Looks really interesting.

(Mike N) #7

It is just a practical look at life and how to do what is important, with actionable tools to do what’s next.

Can’t emphasize enough the value of the 4 hour lecture on audible.

It boils the whole thing down and honestly is more than you’ll ever need. Also, very funny if you appreciate dry humor.

(David Sparks) #8

Wow! Great post. One of the first things they teach with a meditation practice is to pay attention to your body. That really helps me.

(Tyler Weitzman) #9

Great post. I would also recommend looking into “15 Commitments to Conscious Leadership”

I’ve also found that sometimes the easiest way to avoid anxiety is just to be taking the actions I’m supposed to. Dale Carnegie writes in “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” to always keep busy

(Joe Buhlig) #10

With running multiple businesses and splitting my work time between a handful of places, I’ve found that I often need to determine what is the single most troublesome task on my mind. What is bothering me the most? Do that. :wink: